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Marketers, Don’t Stress About Zero-Click Search Just Yet

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Did you know that over 50% of Google searches performed do not result in a click? Did you know that Google is continuing to expand the number of queries to which they are applying zero-click SERP features?

Did you know that it’s not something that you should be too worried about yet? 

“Wait… But it’s taking away search opportunities from my website!” 

That depends on how you are defining search opportunities, so let’s jump to it. 

First, let’s talk about zero-click SERP features. A zero-click SERP feature is an element in the SERP that allows the user to access the information they are looking for without actually clicking on a result. 

For example, when I search the term “How long is Route 66?” we can see a couple of those features.

Answer box:

The answer box is a boxed-in result that directly answers the question. In this example, we now know that Route 66 is 2,448 miles long.


Knowledge Graph:

The Knowledge Graph shows up to the right of the SERP and gives you more information than what the answer box shows. It’s similar to the “knowledge panel” (which is individual and brand-focused), but also tells me that Route 66 is 2,448 miles long. 

Now, if Google is serving results that encourage users not to click on an organic result, why am I saying that we shouldn’t be too worried about it? It comes down to changing how we build search strategies. As SEOs, we need to stop defining search opportunities through the lens of the total number of “searches” occurring for keywords. We need to get into the mindset the searcher is in, and we need to better understand where in the buying journey the consumer is at the time of performing the search. 

Let’s think about the type of situation a user would be in that would lead them to search for “how long is Route 66?” In this situation, the user gets an answer box, gets what they need from it, and moves on.

Is it likely the searcher in that situation wants to get a hotel? Probably not. If the user were looking for a hotel, she would probably be searching for something like “best hotels along Route 66.”

I see these types of searches taking the place of encyclopedias and dictionaries; it’s simply a search someone performed to find quick information about a topic. These queries aren’t valuable for brands to target in their search strategies because at no point was the user involved in the purchasing journey.

In fact, Google making these changes is forcing us to be better at targeting the right queries to create meaningful and impactful search strategies. While these broad searches can artificially increase the number of people landing on my site, are those visits helping me drive revenue?

Some searches have a mixed intent that make defining a qualified search versus an unqualified search difficult to separate. One example could be “mortgage interest rates.” There is an answer box that gives me some of the current “mortgage interest rates” based on loan length. Because there is an answer box, Google has identified this query as an example of a term where some users aren’t interested in navigating to sites and are only looking for a simple answer to the question. Google is also serving pages where users can apply for a mortgage loan, so there are likely also examples of users that are actually looking to get a mortgage. 

The benefit of this is that Google is now cutting out a qualifying step for marketers. Users that were only interested in a simple answer to their query were never in the purchasing funnel; they were using the SERP as an encyclopedia. While the increase in zero-click searches may cost business websites some visits on the front end, the percentage of visits that are actually qualified should rise.

The good news for SEOs is that zero-search forces them to target only qualified users with our search strategies. Brands will see the benefits through improved performance of visits entering their domains.

Don’t let zero-click searches scare you from building out your search strategies. There are still plenty of opportunities to tackle within the space, and now more than ever, we are getting better visits that drive measurable results. 

Ron Cierniakoski is product manager at Terakeet.